In this article we will talk about networking as a source of candidate leads for planning. In article #6 we discuss generating leads through relationship marketing and through traditional marketing approaches. In article #7 we discuss how to produce planning candidates and additional fee income from at least 20% of the senior population by focusing on veterans benefits. In article #8 we discuss how community educational presentations will produce the perfect candidates for Life Resource Planning.
Networking is Much More than Just Exchanging Business Cards
"Networking, notes Marilyn Ferguson, who has written extensively about the subject in The Aquarian Conspiracy, is done by "conferences, phone calls, air travel, books, phantom organizations, papers, pamphleteering, photocopying, lectures, workshops, parties, grapevines, mutual friends, summit meetings, coalitions, tapes, newsletters."
"Networks are appropriate sociology — the human equivalent of appropriate technology — providing a form of communication and interaction which is suitable for the energy-scarce, information-rich future," write Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps in New Age."
"Remember: networking is not sales! It’s about developing relationships with people. Out of these relationships can come all the things you want or need, such as a new job or more business. First, though, you have to establish credibility with people. Otherwise, you are still a stranger, and why should they trust or do business with a stranger?"
The concept of networking has been around much longer than the name itself. Sales people or businesses have always developed relationships with each other that result in opportunities for providing service for each other. For some people it has simply been a natural way of doing business. But for others, who do not use networking, the realization that there is a strategy to reach out to more "partners" in business provides the lure of another channel of communication and marketing.
Unfortunately, most business people perceive networking as attending a frequent breakfast meeting to rub shoulders with other business people for the purpose of generating referrals. Business cards are often exchanged at these meetings and participants have a requirement to generate a certain number of referrals for the group. Attendees take turns providing short speeches about what they do and who they are. Members also actively recruit new people to introduce to the group and these efforts are viewed by existing members as an expression of loyalty to the group. Recruiting efforts build trust and rapport with other group members and typically result in more referrals.
Depending on how they are run and how involved group members become, these networking organizations can be successful or they can fizzle out over time. This type of networking might be considered a starting point, but it is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the potential for generating new business by developing relationships with other like-minded business people.
Networking that evolves naturally and involves frequent contact with other networkers in a variety of ways beyond formal meetings is a much more successful experience. The quote at the beginning of this section indicates some of the ways that people who network keep in touch. But just keeping in touch does not represent the real potential of networking. The most successful networkers do not just maintain contact but they also provide genuine service to each other that is not dependent upon receiving monetary payment.
Here is how author Sandy Donovan, in an article titled "Building Blocks" describes the process.
"In business, we are all focused on getting ahead, achieving our own goals, advancing our individual careers. But if we’ve learned to share, we realize that we reach our greatest heights when we pool our strengths and see how high we can soar together. By focusing on helping others achieve their goals, we get back tenfold, and reaching our own goals somehow becomes easier… Bob Burg describes networking as the cultivation of mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships."
It's All about Relationships
Many business people are content to use traditional methods of promotion and marketing which might include advertising, direct mail campaigns and possibly the Internet. Many of these people are not willing to take the time to develop one-on-one relationships with other business people or they don't know how to do it. There must be an effort made to go out and meet people and to maintain contact over time with those people in a variety of ways in order to develop a trusting relationship.
It Involves a Genuine Interest in What Others Do
A good networker listens and understands what other people do. A good networker does not monopolize the conversation about his or her business or who he or she is. A good networker really does want to know what other people do and expresses a genuine interest in the nature of other people's businesses.
It Doesn't Happen Overnight
Referrals from networking can come rather quickly but oftentimes it's more a matter of being patient. Networking is like farming. The farmer must prepare the field, fertilize, plant the seed, cultivate and remove weeds and then wait many months for the crop to grow. After all of this time and effort the crop is now ready to harvest and the farmer can enjoy the spoils of his labor. Unfortunately, in some cases, the crops may fail. Think of networking in the same way. Results will eventually appear, but require a great deal of patience, effort and time. On the other hand, certain relationships, no matter how much time and effort is involved, may not result in any success. Just like the farmer, there may be crop failures. All networkers must realize the potential of failure and be willing to move on.
It Requires Involvement and Effort
If we think of networking as farming, we recognize that the more involved we become and the more effort we put in, the more likely a positive result. Successful networkers are at it all the time -- attending meetings, sending out emails, mailing cards, socializing, making phone calls, stopping by, providing gifts of recognition and so on. This involvement does not mean making sales pitches or asking for referrals. It means simply genuine relationship building with frequent contact.
It Requires Giving without Expectation of Receiving
With networking, the phrase "what goes around, comes around" becomes a guiding concept. All successful networkers are interested in providing service and have a passion for being involved in the community in their particular area of interest. Their attitude reflects a genuine desire to serve the needs of others and help others with their problems. They know from experience that this attitude will eventually be rewarded with more business and with referrals. It is common for someone with this particular philosophy to not worry about where the business will come from. This person knows from experience that he or she will eventually be rewarded in some indefinable future way. The principle of networking is "gain from giving."
Networking through Organization Relationships
Many professionals and businesses join organizations or associations in order to rub shoulders with other professionals and businesses who might end up referring a client. The key to making this strategy work is to show up at meetings, socials, golf outings and so on in order to be seen and to interact with others. Another important part of this strategy is to remain in the consciousness of other members in other ways such as speaking at functions and sending periodic emails, thank-you notes, and inexpensive gifts and so on.
Many senior services providers are already using this method of generating business. If they are not, it is important that the provider commit to a number of organizational relationships.
Here is a list of some of the organizations and associations that would have similar interests to those of a senior services provider.
- A local estate planning council
- World at Work
- Chamber of Commerce
- Realtor associations
- Nursing home associations
- Assisted living associations
- Home care provider associations
- Gerontological Society
- Attorneys associations
- State nurses association
- Alzheimer's Association
- ALS Association
- MS Association
- Heart Association
- Muscular Dystrophy Association
- Other appropriate health support associations
- Local AARP advisory groups
- Service clubs such as Rotary, Lions and so on
- National Association of Professional Financial Advisors
- Financial Planning Association
- National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors
- National Association of Health Underwriters
- Facebook groups of people with similar interests
- LinkedIn with people with similar interests.